These are exciting times in the world of hand tool woodworking. We are currently going through a resurgence of hand tool appreciation, spurred on by the expanded use of the internet and social media. Access to information regarding any woodworking topic conceivable is now instantly available with the click of a mouse. Knowledge that was once forgotten is now discussed nonstop on forums, blog posts, and Facebook pages, enabling even those uninitiated in the ways of wood to quickly develop and hone their skills. These are exciting times indeed.
A new presence in the world of online woodworking is Anne Briggs of www.anneofalltrades.com. I first learned of Anne through Instagram over a year ago, her handle is @anneofalltrades. Her attention to detail, quality photography, obvious passion, quirky humor and radiant smile quickly made her one of my favorites. I finally had the privilege to meet Anne and hang out for several days during Woodworking In America. She shared a hotel room with my wife and I, allowing us the opportunity to really understand who she is and who she wants to be. She quickly earned my respect and friendship. We cannot wait for the next opportunity to see her again! Anne just recently launched her website, taking her interest and involvement in woodworking to a whole new level. She has a fresh perspective and some really good ideas, her site is worth checking out.
The premise behind anneofalltrades.com is "Learning to preserve tradition, one life skill at a time". Anne doesn't focus solely on developing woodworking skills, her interests go beyond that. When you mix in animal husbandry, automobile restoration, woodworking, self sustainability and mini bike repair, things can get interesting! Each topic is covered thoroughly and with aplomb. She doesn't leave out the mistakes and the mishaps. Rather, she highlights those as a learning opportunity and a lesson. I've often heard that it's not how good you are that matters, it's how good you are at fixing mistakes and learning from them that matters. Anne doesn't hide behind the all too easy facade of online woodworking, utilizing filters and camera angles to make things look better than they are. She proudly uses each an every situation as an opportunity to grow, both as a woodworker and as a person. That's something we could all learn from. She has several projects and life lessons documented in the Woodworking Knowledge section.
One thing Anne is passionate about, is hand tool restoration. All too often, hand tools are cast aside, gathering dust and accumulating rust. Some tools deteriorate until they can't be recovered while some are picked up and restored. If Anne gets hold of one, you can bet it will be lovingly brought back to life!
Anne has a lengthy and informative section on tool restoration, focusing on techniques that are readily available and affordable to any woodworker. She even performs electrolysis in her bathtub for particularly rusty items!
Anne also offers up tools that she has restored in her online shop. If you've been burned on the auction sites or through classified ads, consider buying a tool from Anne. She goes over each one thoroughly, only selling those that require minimum work to become competent users. Her descriptions are accurate and her prices are fair. Her inventory is constantly changing, so check back often. But be warned! Anne uses clever marketing techniques to rope you in! I mean, who could say no to pictures like these??
An original concept at anneofalltrades.com is the Community Toolchest. She is assembling a beginners toolchest with tools acquired through trades, friends, or other means. With each tool added to the chest, Anne will cover it's use, including care and proper technique. She also plans to incorporate projects that use the particular tools in the toolchest. According to Anne, "The whole purpose of the Community Tool Chest is to share my passion for quality tools, my excitement for preserving the woodworking craft, the incredible relationships that can be found along the way, and to give new woodworkers an outlet for their own unique creative process.". Her ever expanding Community Toolchest is becoming more impressive with each acquisition. As a beginning woodworker, following her Toolchest model would be an ideal way to learn the craft step by step alongside someone who is a seasoned tool restorer. I should know, I have a sweet set of chisels that she turned new handles for!
An interesting feature in the Community Toolchest section of her website is the "Meet the Maker" section. Here, she highlights a particular tool maker whose tools are in her toolchest. While some of her tools in the toolchest are restored items, she has some impressive custom pieces as well! Each interview includes a short writeup on the particular tool she has, her thoughts on that tools use, as well as an in depth Q&A session with some intriguing questions. Definitely a can't miss read! (Especially the interview featuring Texas Heritage Woodworks!)
There has been concern in the past about the slow decline in the popularity of hand tool woodworking. These last few years have shown a resurgence, brought forth by seasoned woodworkers and toolmakers with an insatiable appetite for quality. Now those veterans are being joined by a younger crowd. A crowd that understands the importance of preserving tradition.
So head over to anneofalltrades.com and check it out. You'll leave with a smile, I guarantee it!